Some dysfunctional families draw readers in, and make them engaged in the story. Then there are the literary dysfunctional families who are simply annoying. The Aschers, the focus of Bass's novel, are decidedly in the latter category. Throughout the book I was struck by what a bunch of miserable, negative, self-absorbed people the Aschers seemed to be. Basically, this is a book about self-centered, neurotic people who experience tragedy, which in turn makes them more self-centered and miserable. A big part of the problem is that this book is longer than it needs to be. One simply gets sick of the Aschers' navel-gazing. The book seemed repetitive, with the same sentiments repeated. If the book had been cut down by a third, it would likely have been stronger. This is not a book based upon plot, rather, it is meant to be an investigation of the interior life of a family. The problem is, it's very difficult to pull that off with characters such as these, and in the absence of plot, the reader is left with little else.
Hyatt Bass, The Embers (Henry Holt, 2009) ISBN: 0805089942
Category: Published in 2009 2/9, 20/81